By MATTHEW WEAVER
International experts will converge on the Pacific Northwest this summer as part of efforts to develop quinoa varieties for the region.
Online registration is open for the International Quinoa Research Symposium, which is Aug. 12-14 in the Smith Center for Undergraduate Education on the Washington State University campus in Pullman, Wash. Participants should register before June 30.
Quinoa is a grainlike seed and relative of the goosefoot family. About 24,000 acres are grown in the United States, representing less than 10 percent of the world's production, but U.S. growers are interested in tapping into growing market demand as a gluten-free substitute for wheat.
The symposium is designed to bring international quinoa experts in to share their work over the last few decades and work on multi-country collaborations to determine how best to grow quinoa in the PNW.
Although there will be some "pretty hardcore genetics," much of the research is of direct interest to farmers, said WSU assistant research professor and quinoa breeder Kevin Murphy.
Several U.S. farmers with quinoa experience and seed breeders will present information.
There will also be visits in the afternoons to quinoa trials on farm sites.
Sven-Erik Jacobsen of the University of Copenhagen is the keynote speaker.
It's the first quinoa research symposium in the United States.
United Nations speaker Tania Santivanez is the coordinator of the International Year of Quinoa. The symposium is on the UN's calendar of events for the year, Murphy said.
"We're trying to get as international a group as we can here," he said. "If we want quinoa production to grow and increase in the U.S., this will be critical."
On a regional level, Murphy hopes to address improved ways to grow the crop and make the most of collaboration, particularly in breeding, sharing strategies and germplasm to find varieties adapted to the area.
Some quinoa varieties are already available to farmers. Murphy said the trick is to plant them in the right location.
Murphy's team of researchers is planting 700 different breeding lines and varieties as part of a multi-state variety trial. He expects to know how different varieties performed in various locations throughout the Pacific Northwest by the end of the year. If they do well, they could be released in two or three years, Murphy said.
"We'll be able to see pretty much all 700 different lines during the symposium," he said.
The bulk of interest is in organic quinoa, but Murphy expected to plant the first conventional quinoa trial this week, and said there has been interest from regional wheat farmer group Shepherd's Grain in raising quinoa.
Murphy expects at least 100 people to attend the conference.